Training the next generation of journalists in Sammamish
The media landscape in our country is at a crossroads. Many of us nostalgically remember a time when network evening anchors and local newspapers provided the news. But as the industry shrank over time, blogs and heavily partisan platforms filled the void, and started playing loose with facts. This environment has degraded to the point where wild conspiracies, such as stolen elections and QAnon, now thrive.
Local communities like Sammamish are not immune. Here, blogs written by a handful of individuals became the only source of news after the Sammamish Review ended its run in 2017.
When we founded the Sammamish Independent (The Indy) last year, we believed our community has a hunger for credible news coverage, and is willing to support a non-profit organization dedicated to providing news as a community service. And from the beginning, a core part of our mission is to train the next generation of journalists among the students from our local schools.
Developing Our Student Reporters
Students can cover this community as effectively as anyone else. Our excellent schools have given them a dynamic range of writing and storytelling skills. Young people also have an infectious curiosity to learn about the world. We have seen our reporters bring that curiosity by pitching unique story ideas and showing a hunger to find information. But early on, we knew that it was critical to teach our students the art and rigor of writing credible stories.
Before they start writing, every student reporter goes through a training workshop, which emphasizes that credible news is based on facts, viewpoints from interviewees, and a reporter’s own eyewitness account. News stories should not be colored by a reporter’s personal opinion. We also encourage our reporters to challenge potential editorial bias.
When pursuing a story, editors and reporters work together to identify potential interviewees, with an eye towards getting multiple perspectives. When someone declines an interview, we try our best to find another person who may offer a similar viewpoint.
Every story goes through a rigorous review process, with at least two to three different editors checking facts and assumptions, including whether any viewpoints may have been missed.
Providing Pathways to a Potential Career
Our commitment to students goes beyond giving them a byline. We also want to expose them to the world of journalism as a potential career. Since the Indy’s founding, guest speakers have been a fixture of our student program. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this has become an incredible window for our students to engage and learn from experts around the world.
Our guest speakers have included:
- John Curley, co-host, Tom and Curly Show, KIRO Radio
- Eva Dou, China business and economy correspondent, Washington Post
- Camille Fassett, Data Reporter, Associated Press
- Chris Huber, former reporter, Sammamish Review
- Ralph Jennings, special correspondent in Asia, Los Angeles Times
- Wayne Ma, Hong Kong-based reporter, The Information
- Clement Tan, former reporter, Bloomberg News
- Kelsey Tolchin-Kupferer, Program Producer for KUOW’s RadioActive youth media program
- Doris Truong, Director of Training & Diversity, Poynter Institute
How You Can Support Us
As citizens, we were alarmed by how much local news has declined and how far misinformation spreads today. As editors for the Sammamish Independent, we decided to push back, starting with the beautiful community that we call home.
If you believe in our mission, you can support us by reading and sharing our stories. And if one of our reporters contacts you for an interview, please accept and become part of our community’s story. Soon, we will also announce a way for you to donate funds to support our operations.
Finally, we are always looking for student reporters, as well as adults to volunteer as editors. If you are interested in joining the Indy staff, and learning more about journalism, you can explore our open roles.
It is our hope that The Indy becomes a true community asset for Sammamish—one that better informs our citizens, increases our connection and engagement with each other, and lifts our young people toward brighter futures. We appreciate your support to get us there.
– The Indy Editorial Board